New Year cancelled due to bad weather
"It gives me no platitude whatever to do this," said Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who has been allowed to sit at the prime minister's desk while he is on holiday. "But I have thought about it long and hard and in totality the best thing to do, vis-à-vis the New Year celebrations, is to postpone them until such a time as the adverse weather conditions have subdued. While we wait, the only sensible thing to do is to add some extra days to the year so that parties can go ahead on time."
Sources in the Treasury say that Gordon Brown is backing the plan on the grounds that adding extra days to 2006 will boost the UK's economic output for the year, allowing him to meet his targets without a more imaginative fiddle. Tony Blair's only concern was whether or not he would have to pay for any additional days spent with the Bee Gees. Sources close to Mr Blair added that he was "amused" by the idea of keeping Mr Brown out of the top job for even longer. He apparently asked an adviser if 2007 was a leap year, "and if it isn't let's jolly well make it one!"
The announcement has been met with widespread confusion, including from Mr Prescott when an aide asked him which day of the week tomorrow would be. Inspired by the late president of Turkmenistan, officials are privately calling tomorrow 'Prescott', and the following day 'Prescott +1'. Aides were already calling certain types of muffin 'Paulines' after Mr Prescott's wife.
In Tonbridge Wells, where a large fireworks display had to be cancelled because of the first recorded instance of it raining jelly since the 1950s, locals were quick to criticise Mr Prescott. "My drains are full of jelly, I want to get someone out to fix them but they'll only come Monday to Friday," said one resident. "I'm going to be stuck with blocked drains until this hell ends."
Concerns have been expressed by airlines, some of which have flights due to operate on 1st January. "We won't be operating any services during 'Prescott' days, it's just too confusing," said a spokesman for BA. "All departures are suspended as of midnight tonight. International arrivals will be diverted. You can't land on a day that doesn't exist, it's impossible."
The spokesman was unable to say what compensation would be available for the distress caused to passengers forced to stay in France indefinitely.
Computer experts are meanwhile predicting chaos. "I'm expecting the tax credits computer to go haywire, sending out thousands of false statements; the national IT programme for the NHS to be delayed by several more months; and my copy of Outlook to crash repeatedly," said Dr Douglas Ramsbottom of Bootle University. "But they were my predictions for 2007 already. This can only make things worse."
Political reaction has been mixed. For the Conservatives, Boris Johnson was said to be in his usual state of befuddlement, while David Cameron was too busy playing with the webcam he got for Christmas to comment. Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who normally goes to bed at 10pm on New Year's Eve and wakes up again at 9am on New Year's Day, is relaxed at the prospect of spending several days in bed. Charles Kennedy is said to be concerned that he won't know what day it is tomorrow, but colleagues said that that would be quite normal.